Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1933)
Your mind goes blank, and you feel unable to speak, move or think. Your mouth goes dry and all the moisture accumulates on your palms. Cold shivers run down your spine and explode in paralyzing currents through every capillary in your body and every muscle seizes up. Yet even so, your heart feels like it will pound out of your chest. In fact it is the only muscle somehow activated by this stomach churning paralysis.
What creates this sensation for you?
Is it a snake slithering or cockroach scuttling or armed bandit shuffling across your path? Hearing, “You’re fired!”, “This relationship is not working, I’m leaving you,”, “Sorry, you do not qualify for a loan,” or the ominous growl of an approaching dog whose bite is worse than its bark? Does derisive laughter of your peers with whom you long to fit in or having your hidden weaknesses, lifestyle or private parts put on display trigger this sensation for you? Or maybe being put on the spot or in the spotlight? What about thinking about getting old, sickly and dying or watching it happen to your loved ones?
How often do you feel this sensation? Once a month? Once a week? Once a day? Many times a day?
This sensation is of course Fear.
What Is Fear?
Feel free to check the dictionary definition but here is mine:
Fear is the innate FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE to a person, place, position or possible outcome which makes one FEEL UNCERTAIN about their ABILITY TO SURVIVE unscathed or at all.
Like pain, fear is part of our inbuilt survival instinct.
We evolved and survived as a species because of it this “Fight or Flight” response. It primed our ancestors to take on things like mammoths, saber tooth tigers and stampeding bison. It is what urged them to struggle out of sucking quicksand and fierce river currents. It got their legs moving to run away from landslides, lava and tidal wave surges. Those who did not, their genes did not survive to our time.
However, as with all things, if it is not used purposefully fear will become a problem, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
To Be Used Sparingly
Fear places tremendous stress on our heart and drastically alters our body’s chemistry so you can burst forth with superhuman strength and single minded focus in order to survive.
For those who push through fear, they find that just like pushing through pain, on the other side is often extreme euphoria, comfort, strength and power. But in that moment, when you get slammed in the chest by fear, it truly feels you ran a marathon in a matter of seconds. Something so profound is not a reaction to waste on petty things and should be saved for moments that truly deserve it- defending your life and health or the life and health of your loved ones.
The human body and mind is a marvelous thing and able to grow stronger when subjected to stress with purposeful intent. The brave spiritual/truth seeker can also get stronger by learning how to use the sensation of fear to their advantage.
Today we rarely have to stare down snarling wild animals and hostile natural elements with little to no protection or understanding as our ancestors once did. In fact, some of us miss the thrill so much we deliberately seek danger and scary experiences to trigger the adrenaline rush our ancestors enjoyed several times a day.
So how come with all our technology, seeming control over Mother Nature, freedom and prosperity our society seems so sick with fear induced stress? Why do so many people feel so confounded and powerless and afraid even though there are no lions scratching outside our door and we understand sickness is caused by micro-organisms and defective genes, not nefarious demonic forces?
Surprisingly, despite all our advancements as a species, we are still ruled by a lot of uncertainty, some of it is real and some of it is rooted in the spiritual diseases of Lack and Masculine/Feminine Imbalance. Do you wish to be free of unnecessary fear?
Freedom from Fear involves two things:
1. Understanding what is Real Fear and how to transcend it to power and purpose
2. Identifying what is False Fear and how to stamp out the Lack and Masculine/Feminine imbalance at its core.
There is a reason why I capitalized certain words in my previous definition of Fear. Here are those words again:
FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE
ABILITY TO SURVIVE
When trying to differentiate Real Fear from False Fear these three key aforementioned factors play a vital role.
Fight Or Flight
When fear is based on real factors, choosing one of the following (Fight or Flight) immediately frees you from it in the short term and helps you survive. For example:
A woman finds an intruder in her apartment. She experiences the Fight Or Flight response. She chooses to fight and grabs a kitchen knife, defends herself and manages to discourage him and he runs off.
Same scenario and she flees and calls for help.
In both cases, she is attempting to safeguard her survival. She may not be successful and may in fact die but her response to the situation is honorable, purposeful and valid. If she survives the incident, even with injuries emotional and physical, she emerges feeling extremely empowered and capable of dealing with the situation again.
Studies into the recovery of victims of sexual assault show that women who fight back while being raped recover faster from the shame, violation and fear. Women who become paralyzed by the Fight or Flight reaction take a much longer time to recover a sense of power and freedom from shame and fear.
Understand that Fight or Flight do not always mean literal Fight or Flight.
Sometimes Fight or Flight can translate to: (A) Staying and fighting for a relationship, goal or cause or (B) Fleeing from a relationship or abandoning a goal or cause.
On the other hand, when a fear is based in falsehood rooted in Lack or Masculine/Feminine Imbalance, the Fight or Flight reaction does not work!
This is often your first indicator that the fear is not valid. For example:
A singer has extreme stage fright and deals with it by fleeing from any public appearances. The fear never goes away. She never becomes empowered or capable of dealing with the source of that false fear.
A man is extremely fearful of rejection and so, lashes out violently at any and every opportunity that brings up that fear. His fear is going nowhere! He is not becoming empowered and capable of dealing with the source.
So first clue that your fear is false:
• It does not go away when you apply Fight or Flight
• When you apply Fight or Flight you actually make matters worse for yourself and others.
Uncertainty is at the very center of fear. Or to put it another way, the actual sensations you feel as Fear is that indecisive, anxious, sickening crux between Fight OR Flight. You have no idea how the situation is going to turn out and for a split-second, you are indeed in a state of paralysis.
This in-between phase often manifests as avoidance or inaction. And some people never get out of that state of paralysis because their fear is false and as we mentioned earlier, cannot be solved by either Fight or Flight.
Fear only becomes a problem when you remain stuck in that limbo between Fight Or Flight. Often people get very comfortable in this state of fearful non-action and even find ways of justifying it. This is where resistance to change, compromise and the stagnation of the growth of your soul takes hold.
I speak from personal experience here.
For years I was afraid to lay my cards on the table in my relationship out of a paralyzing fear that my partner would be unable to deal with it and it will mean the conclusion or a drastic change in some way we both would not find pleasant. I justified it as being mature, civil, accomodating and long-suffering but the truth was it would keep me up at night. It would affect my mood. It would make me shut down all communication which would escalate into even more serious problems- constipation, piles, stress fuh so!
When you have no idea how something is going to turn out or which action you should take (Fight or Flight) you begin to fill that void with your own speculations of what will happen if you take action. Suddenly what you become afraid of is taking any action. Those of us with wild imaginations know how we can self-torture ourselves into insomnia and insanity. Worse yet you can be exploited by others to live in a state of Avoidance & Inaction, while others can commit great crimes. For example:
As we speak, we know something is wrong with unbridled Capitalism and so-called free markets. However we are so afraid of what revamping it will bring, we choose to just do nothing or even worse, stubbornly defend the failed system, its culture, politics and accompanying religious systems.
Fearful inaction by people who should know better has been at root of so much evil in our society.
The Cure For Uncertainty
There are three guaranteed cures for Uncertainty.
3. Divine Trust
Whether you are theist, deist or atheist, one, two or all of the above work wonders. Let us explore how it works within one particular and very common scenario: A parent finding out their child is gay.
A mother learns her beloved son is a homosexual.
Before this, she has never had any personal dealings with a homosexual and her only knowledge about homosexuals came from one, very limited source which has painted a negative picture.
This picture is what causes her Fear because she as far as she knows her son is doomed, deviant, hell-bound, evil. However, this conflicts with other things she knows; her son is also kind, talented, loving and genuinely distressed by not being able to change to please her and fit into their family and community.
She is stuck in a state of uncertainty which can manifest passively as:
Avoidance and Inaction: Pretend my child is not gay, avoid the subject.
Or actively as:
Ignorant Rush to Fight or Flight: Condemn, denounce and try to change him or ostracize him and then spend the rest of her time over-defending her actions she knows it cannot be easily validated.
Because both responses are rooted in ignorance, it will wind up hurting her and her son.
The mother will remain in this state until she embarks upon a mission to broaden her knowledge and research ALL the medical, historical, sociological and legal facts. This will result in a new choice based on greater understanding of the situation. Knowledge can empower a more informed Fight or Flight response. She can now choose to:
Fight: For her relationship with her son, his happiness, his well-being and equality in society
Flight: Discard and remove herself from any false or one-sided beliefs that cause pain and suffering and the people and situations that promote them.
However knowledge only works if someone is receptive to it.
A pre-existing resistance to knowledge will cause someone to actually choose to remain in that limbo state of uncertainty and conflict or Fight or Flight in ignorance and then grasp at ways to justify it as it hurts others.The ability to be receptive to Knowledge comes from having Enlightenment.
Knowledge is indeed Power. But knowledge alone is not what leads to power. What leads to power is being able to:
Accept the knowledge however disquieting, process it fearlessly and then make whatever compromises are necessary to live in harmony with that newfound truth, even if it hurts your ego, status, feelings, comfort level.
This requires Enlightenment.
If our mother of the homosexual already has the raw ingredients for Enlightenment- a level of fearlessness, freedom and fullness of self-esteem, when she learns about the medical facts, research and spiritual basis for natural sexual diversity her paralysis is instantly healed. She feels empowered to Fight or Flight from a place of truth even if she risks social, peer and family disapproval.
The opposite is true. If she is powerless and enslaved to a belief or the external trappings of her social standing and peer and family approval she will continue to choose deliberate ignorance. But where exactly does that power to be Enlightened come from?
When that mother of the gay son learns about his sexuality, she feels genuinely powerless.
Now, she can rail against her utter powerlessness or she can simply admit the truth:
Although I gave this child birth, food, shelter and inculcated my values based on what I know, in the end, I have no control over many innate qualities this child possesses; his personality, talents, intelligence, sexuality and most of all, his self-determined, life choices.
It does not matter if you believe in a Purposeful Universe or Divine Plan or not. This is a Universal Truth- we cannot control everything and everyone. It is also called The Law Of Allowing.
Recognizing where your control ends and the will of another and the Universe begins is one of the most liberating, empowering lessons that sadly many do not learn before it is too late. Throughout their entire lives they take on other people’s shit, let other people’s shit unduly affect them and try to control what others do with a false sense of power.
However, those who do believe in some form of Universal or Divine Purpose and truly act in accordance with what they believe, often find a lot more comfort in the process of admitting their powerlessness. Why? Because they feel a safety net under them if they just free-fall with love and trust into something higher, bigger, all-encompassing, even if they cannot exactly define or understand what it is.
This is also known as faith.
Not blind faith mind you! But faith based on Universal Truth about our human limitations; humbly admitting we lack the ability to understand everything right away and simply trusting that with time the answer will come.
Those whose entire sense of security rests in being overly certain they know ABSOLUTELY FOR SURE how everything OUGHT TO BE right now, are actually the ones demonstrating blind faith and are usually the ones plagued by the most fears. Certainty or false pride in having a certain position becomes a crutch for other insecurities. Sometimes only a truly tragic or humbling experience gives them the courage to let go, be still and let the truth unfold as it should.
To him that waits all things reveal themselves, provided that he has the courage not to deny, in the darkness, what he has seen in the light. ~Coventry Patmore
So, there is in fact a more empowering option than disempowered paralysis between Fight or Flight. It is Divine Trust.
Divine/Universal Trust is not dejectedly throwing your hands up in the air. It is not giving over your power or cowardly refusing to do the right thing. It is throwing down your burdens and weapons and admitting, “Okay, I am lost! I need a map before I continue!” or “Okay, I am tired. I need strength beyond what I can fathom to deal with this!” or "This is not working, I need to try something else, I don't know what yet but I will cease and desist until it becomes clear."
Throughout history, great strides in human rights, social justice and yes, even science have been made by people who did just that instead of CONTINUING TO PRETEND THEY KNEW WHAT WAS BEST BASED ON THE SAME PARADIGM THAT LED THEM TO THE CONFLICT IN THE FIRST PLACE.
The greatest warriors and martial art philosophies of the world embrace this state of being still or Zen just before you unleash your Fight or Flight. When you get good enough at it, you can actually do it on command or in a split second when your life is on the line. Combining wise, purposeful focus with the power of that adrenaline rush can save your life and the lives of others.
There is a favorite scene of mine from the movie The Last Samauri where the character Nathan Algren played by Tom Cruise, foreplays the entire battle in his head, analyzing each outcome before he launches his attack. Yet it happens in a split second. The state of being still and letting God/Universe is actually like getting the benefit of hindsight without the regret.
Conversely, great tragedy and human set-backs have been made when we rushed to Fight or Flight without the benefit of either Knowledge/Enlightenment that can only be obtained in that moment of stillness.
Can you imagine what our world look like right now if the USA had not rushed into bombing Hiroshima, invading Iraq or adopting post WW2 economic plans based on unbridled consumerism and corporate omniscience?
Thank goodness for all the people that embraced that stabbing shard of doubt, that unsettled feeling, that twinge on their heart-strings, that moment of pause and simply surrendered and learned to be still long enough to be enlightened before acting.
Ability To Survive
Remember how we started this discourse. Fear (Fight or Flight) is a tool that primes us to have the strength and focus to act in defense of our own survival. So truly the ultimate barometer of whether that Fight or Flight response is valid is whether it has resulted in- Our Survival or Our Demise.
In the last Survival Kit essay on Masculine/Feminine Imbalance, one false fear was already laid bare. The False Fear Of Losing Ownership/Control Over Another.
In the next easy we unveil some more false fears that are plaguing society by measuring them against the litmus tests of this essay. We will also reiterate and affirm the Spiritual Power-Ups that fight these false fears.
I truly hope that a newfound level of courage will come to you and me by the end of this exploration.